William Lionel Wyllie and the Thames
|Wyllie and other Thames artists|
James Tissot (1836-1902)
The French artist James Tissot (1836-1902) came to London in 1871.
Just as Wyllie painted the everyday world of the Thames, Tissot's paintings were concerned with fashion, society and the interactions between the sexes in London.
La Thamise was painted only a few years before Wyllie's Toil, glitter, grime and wealth on a flowing tide.
Tissot liked setting his subjects on water. But although the background shows the same shipping and bustling activity in the Pool of London, his foreground figures are far removed from Wyllie's.
Instead of lightermen, a single man, perhaps a sailor, enjoys a pleasure trip with two unchaperoned young women. A picnic hamper and bottles of champagne sit at their feet. It was an image that critics at the time considered 'fast', or risqué.
The Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich was frequented by fashionable society in the 19th century. That would have given the subject appeal for Tissot.
The view from the first floor dining room is towards Greenwich Reach. Along with the adjacent Royal Naval College, this was drawn and etched by Wyllie on many occasions.
Charles William Wyllie (1853-1923): the younger brother
During the 1880s, when Wyllie was making his name with paintings of the Thames and Medway, his younger brother Charlie often painted similar subjects.
Like Toil, glitter…, this painting of a small shipyard was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1883. It shows a type of wooden brigantine that would have traded in the North or South Atlantic.
It has been hauled out of the water on a slip. The owner, in a top hat, and the yard foreman discuss the work being carried out.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Wyllie would almost certainly have known the etchings Whistler made in 1859. It is likely that their subject matter would have influenced Wyllie's industrial Thames pictures of the 1880s.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Whistler chose to depict the urban landscape. In 1859 he moved to Wapping, in London's docklands. There, he etched the plates for these prints directly in front of subjects that were usually thought to be too vulgar for fine art.
Working class community
Whistler's prints emphasised the existence of a working class maritime community in the heart of the city.
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